My university is Hogwarts!

Being a Harry Potter fanatic, the only thing I had high expectations from my move to Sydney is the Great Hall of the University of Sydney which according to rumors looks very much like the Great Hall of Hogwarts. Today my long wait was finally realised because our International Students Welcome was held at USyd’s Great Hall.

I was awe-struck. The Great Hall lived up my expectations, even far exceeded it. If only I brought my DSLR, I would have been able to capture its details. On its ceiling’s vault stood angels in a row holding something like a book. There were also students who wore a uniform that resembles that of Slytherin! Actually, let these photos speak for itself, although they won’t give justice to USyd’s beautiful architecture.

University of Sydney Great Hall

University of Sydney

University of Sydney Quadrangle

Structural beauty aside, the main highlight of my day was the speech from Professor Tyrone Carlin, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Registrar). He started by allowing us a moment to digest the fact that despite thousands of people who want to be in graduate school, we in that hall are lucky enough to get into the University of Sydney, one of the world’s best universities and ranked 37th in the 2013 QS World University Rankings.


Sydney University

He emphasised the importance of balance between studies and other aspects of life. Whilst other teachers would push students to study harder, he encouraged us go out to develop friendships and participate in activities be it in school or outside. He shared his own experience of going through Law School but getting out of it with no friends which was perhaps his greatest regret as a student.

His speech reminded me of Omar and Marc who were both undertaking their master’s degree on water resources engineering at the Katholieke Universiteit, the leading university in Belgium. While serious about their studies, they also did a lot of fun activities such as playing badminton, attending parties, going out with friends, cooking and spending long dinners over good conversations. It will not be a surprise if people would think they did more fun than study. But guess what? They both graduated cum laude (with honor)!

Basically, to survive grad school, one needs to play!

SUPRA UNiversity of Sydney

New life down under

It was only when I was already on the plane to Sydney that it started to sink in that I am moving here. Having gone through many ups and downs, I did not expect much of what my life will be like here.

Dawn above the sky

Sydney Australia

I left home on Friday at 6:30 and arrived in my new home in Sydney Saturday at 13:15. It was a tiresome trip from 30 degrees to 15 degrees. My body felt frozen but I still managed to grab groceries. I was ecstatic to find out that my area has a lot of Thai restaurants – I’ve passed by at least 6 of them – as well as Thai massage. The area is actually very Asian as most restaurants are either Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Vietnamese. But because I just came from Bangkok and my roommate Lavina from Taipei, we opted for Japanese food. I fell asleep at 20:30 still holding my phone.

I woke up Sunday feeling energised. Since Lavina has only a week in Sydney before moving to Macquarie University, we decided to be tourists for a day. We were lucky the weather was pleasant, sunny and not too cold. And on top of that, my place is close to the Sydney Harbour, just 10 minutes through a free bus! How cool is that?!

Sydney Harbour

Our first stop was at The Rocks along Sydney Harbour. It is known as the land of the Gadigal people and the first place of European settlement in Australia. During weekends there are stalls all over the streets selling various products so it is fun to walk around. There were also musicians playing soothing songs and instrumental. From there you can get a good view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

Sydney Opera House

Mugs at The Rocks Sydney

Wall decor at The Rocks Sydney

The Rocks Sydney

Watch necklace at The Rocks Sydney

We had lunch at Phillip’s Foote, a hidden gem within busy The Rocks established in 1975. The restaurant is a bit hidden behind a pub, we would not have found it had Lavina not seen the ad on steak at $40 for two to commemorate their 40 years anniversary. We loved discovering this restaurant. With trees and plants around, you can’t ask for a better ambiance after a long day of walking. And their steak was just delicious. You have to grill it yourself which was an added fun.

Photo from Phillips Foote Facebook Page

Photo from Phillips Foote Facebook Page

My massive lunch!

My massive lunch!

After lunch we went to the Opera House and walked to the Royal Botanic Garden. This park is huge; a perfect place to chill out when readings and essays will begin to drown me. Across the park is the State Library of NSW. When I saw the library, my heart skipped a beat. I can’t believe I live close to everything that nurtures my soul!

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

State Library of the New South Wales

From SLNSW we walked to St. Mary’s Cathedral the prettiest church I’ve been to next to Westminster Abbey in London. It was amusing though because just outside the cathedral there was an ice skating rink which I bet was only for the weekend.

Inside St Mary's Cathedral Sydney

Across St. Mary’s Cathedral is Hyde Park, another good place to relax. From there we walked back, dropped by the dirty market to grab fruits and headed home.

I had a dynamic life in Bangkok but moving to Sydney was a huge change, I still can’t help but feel uneasy. All I did in the plane when fear started to creep in was meditate. I told myself to live in the moment and deal with whatever challenges that will come with calmness and kindness. I let my expectations low so that I will be less disappointed. And as it turned out, the universe seemed to be conspiring to grant more than what I could hope for a home away from home including housemates that I am now so fond of. I can only wish Lavina will stay longer coz other than she is the sweetest, she also brings the vibe of positive change, new beginnings and adventures. But short was our time together I am grateful we found each other; two kick-ass women plunging into an ocean of risks and possibilities.

Sydney harbour with the Opera House

Decluttering and rediscovering old notes

Discard everything that does not spark joy”, says Marie Kondo the Japanese organizing consultant and author who promotes decluttering to – what I believe – keep our sanity.

I read about Kondo’s art of decluttering in January 6, which was a perfect time to start 2015 afresh. I particularly like the inspiration behind her tidying obsession. It started after her years of work at the Shinto Shrine which taught her that a place without unnecessary things provides clarity in the mind.

The weekend after I read her article, I started cleaning up my room. I didn’t realize how much I have accumulated until I threw three trash bags! I threw even items that I hold with sentimental value but which I think I would not carry when I move out of Thailand. I also found many items that I bought but didn’t use even once. And indeed it felt great, really great afterwards. It was a therapeutic process, a sort of environment and mind detox.

But now that I am definitely moving out of Thailand and will have to carry only 30 kilos of stuff with me, I appreciated even more the lifestyle of living with less stuff. This reminds me of the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed which says, “I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And, most surprisingly of all, that I can carry it.

I shipped my most important stuff home, especially my books which occupied half of the package. What remained are stuff I need to bring to Australia, some to be given and some more to be thrown. As I rummaged through, I found my favorite organizer, a gift from my cousin Carmela in 2009. I also found my old notebooks. I realized I spent so much time scribbling on my first 3 years in Thailand. Reading what I wrote made me smile. Sometimes I even forgot why I wrote them. Some reminded me of special moments.

The remaining 3 years brisked before my eyes and I don’t have notes to remind me of them. I cursed myself for not documenting random thoughts or memorable moments. I now vow to write everyday even just snippets.

It’s funny to read my new year’s resolution 6 years ago. All of them I failed to do. And all of them still hold true at present. I will try to fulfill them this time around even though it’s already mid-year. I also found Bible verses I wrote on 2 January:

Laziness plunges a man into deep sleep, and the sluggard must go hungry.” Proverbs 19:15

Four things are among the smallest on the earth, and yet are exceedingly wise.
Ants, a species not strong yet they stove up their food in the summer;
Rock-budgers, a species not mighty, yet they make their homes in the crags;
Locusts, they have no king, yet they migrate all in array;
Lizards, you can catch them with your hands, yet they find their way into king’s palaces.” Proverbs 30:24-28